Page Is Dedicated To
Paul N. Donato
REMAINS RETURNED 1993
|Thanks to Joni's Patriotic Graphics.
- Name: Paul Nicholas Donato
- Rank/Branch: E6/US Navy
- Unit: Observation Squadron 67
- Date of Birth: 14 March 1940
- Home City of Record: Boston MA
- Date of Loss: 17 February 1968
- Country of Loss: Laos
- Loss Coordinates: 164959N
- Status (in 1973): Killed/Body
- Category: 3
- Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: OP2E
- Other Personnel in Incident:
Chester Coons, Frank Dawson; Clayborn Ashby; Glen Hayden; James Kravitz; James Martin;
Curtis Thurman; James Wonn (all missing)
by Homecoming II Project with the assistance of one or more of the
following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence
with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews: 1 March 1990.
Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 1998.
FND - NO PARBEEP - NO PERS - J
Lockheed P2 "Neptune" was originally designed for submarine searching, using
magnetic detection gear or acoustic buoys. Besides flying maritime reconnaissance, the
aircraft served as an experimental night attack craft in the attempt to interdict the
movement of enemy truck convoys. Another model, the OP2E, dropped electronic sensors to
detect truck movements along the supply route through Laos known as the "Ho Chi Minh
|The Ho Chi Minh
Trail was used by the North Vietnamese for transporting weapons, supplies and troops.
Hundreds of American pilots were shot down trying to stop this communist traffic to South
Vietnam. Fortunately, search and rescue teams in Vietnam were extremely successful and the
recovery rate was high.
Still there were nearly 600 who were not rescued. Many of them went down along the Ho Chi
Minh Trail and the passes through the border mountains between Laos and Vietnam. Many were
alive on the ground and in radio contact with search and rescue and other planes; some
were known to have been captured. Hanoi's communist allies in Laos, the Pathet Lao,
publicly spoke of American prisoners they held, but when peace agreements were negotiated,
Laos was not included, and not a single American was released that had been held in Laos.
The Neptune had precise navigational equipment and accurate optical bombsight. Radar was
housed in a well on the nose underside of the aircraft, and radar technicians felt
especially vulnerable working in this "glass bubble" nosed aircraft. It was
believed that the aircraft could place the seismic or acoustic device within a few yards
of the desired point. To do so, however, the OP2E had to fly low and level, making it an
easy target for the enemy's anti-aircraft guns that were increasing in number along the
On February 17, 1968, an OP2E from Observation Squadron 67 departed Thailand in a flight
of four aircraft on an operational mission over Laos. The crew of the aircraft included
Commander Glenn M. Hayden; Lt.Jg. James S. Kravitz; Lt. Curtis F. Thurman; Ensign James C.
Wonn; AO2 Clayborn W. Ashby, Jr.; ADJ2 Chester L. Coons; AN Frank A. Dawson; ATN1 Paul N.
Donato; and AN James E. Martin.
After completion of the first target run, the aircraft reported to its fighter escort and
forward air control aircraft that it had been hit by small arms fire but would continue
with the second target run.
During the second run, the fighter escort reported the starboard engine of the OP2 on
fire. The OP acknowledged the report and aborted the rest of their mission to return to
home base. The last radio transmission from the aircraft was, "we're beat up pretty
The fighter escort climbed to the top of the overcast to await the OP2 rendezvous, but the
aircraft never emerged from the cloud base. The fighter dropped below the clouds to search
for the OP2 and found burning wreckage. No parachutes were seen, nor were any emergency
radio beepers heard. Search and rescue efforts were negative. Investigation of the crash
site was not feasible because of enemy presence in the area. The aircraft crashed about 34
kilometers northwest of Xepone in Savannakhet Province, Laos. The crash site was situated
2,800 meters south of route 91 in rugged terrain on the side of a 550 meter ridge,
approximately 4 kilometers northwest of Muang Phin. The aircraft was on a reconnaissance
mission and carried no ordnance.
Because there was no direct witness to the crash of the OP2, it is not known whether any
of the crew of nine survived, but assumed that they did not. All nine aboard were
classified Killed, Body Not Recovered. Although this aircraft went down in a relatively
populous area, it is not known whether the enemy knows the fates of the crewmembers.
Since the war ended, nearly 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing in Southeast Asia
have been received by the U.S. Government. Many authorities have reluctantly concluded
that hundreds of them are still alive in captivity. Whether the crew of the Neptune that
went down on February 17, 1968 is among them is not known. What seems certain, however, is
that we must do everything possible to bring our men home.
Biographical and loss information on POWs provided by Operation Just Cause have been
supplied by Chuck and Mary Schantag of POWNET. Please check with
POWNET regularly for updates."|
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